“The world around us is changing and we have a choice: to sit back and complain about it or decide to initiate the change. Taking charge of the future means articulating a vision of how we believe it ought to be. Start with your own hunches and intuitions, or let your indignation guide you. How can your community work better? Take a hard look at your assumptions, prejudices, and blind spots. Train an internal microscope on your impulses and ask, “Do these represent impartial values?” Perhaps they are vestiges of childhood misunderstandings, outmoded cultural views, or simply old ideas you’ve never bothered to question. Discard the ideas that serve neither you nor your community. This will give you a new sense of purpose, direction and hint of compassion for the “least of us”.
I had the pleasure of interviewing serial entrepreneur and the inventor of SPORTIECUPS, James M. Crumb of CRUMBS VENTURES. SPORTIECUPS aims to be more than a cup, more than a symbol of sports teams, the cup is a symbol of freedom and the power of second chances.The cup is a symbol of HOPE, stemming from James’ desire for “lifting up the least of us”. His dream to manufacture a product relating to sports was only a part of the package. His dream was not a selfish bid for power, but a dream of building an empire where everyone could have a second chance. A man of faith, James knew that he was to lead the broken, the hopeless to success and employment no matter what their background. SPORTIECUPS is designed to harness America’s love of sports and to build a foundation for employment for Americans still able to dream the American Dream. He wanted to instill in them “The Audacity of Hope”.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
I am humbled to be here as well. I’m so pleased to share with you my personal introduction, aimed to stimulate interest, ignite conversation and, hopefully, spur momentum while promoting SportieCups. It is my desire to encourage entrepreneurship and advocate capitalism to “lift up the least of us”. For those who thinks life had dealt you an obituary while still breathing, imprisoning your visions and dreams in the penitentiary of hopelessness…just maybe, as I pull back the veil further for a deeper glimpse you’ll be invigorated.
Born a serial entrepreneur, with the desire to inspire and give opportunities to those in need, a vision of invention and innovation dominated my spirit. The invention of the SportieCups came to focus. Why a sports related beverage container one may ask? Sports were a part of my life since youth, and I continue as an avid sports fan. As mentioned, I’m a born entrepreneur and I’ve owned several businesses and have always envisioned manufacturing my own brand of products. Regardless of my circumstance, I had a burning desire to teach a business platform, structure, lead and be an example to reduce prison recidivism (seeing so many people returning to prison once released) and, in the process build a successful thriving business. So that “the least of us”, “with the audacity of hope” could see with desire, diligence and in not allowing a circumstance dictate mine, theirs or your destiny and accomplishments.
Humbly I add, it’s just been lately that through much prayer and the encouraging support of those closest to me that I actually came to terms with the fact, that if I’m to lead, to be a winning example, following my heart’s desire’s mission to, “lift up the least of us” that I can no longer be ashamed or be reluctant to speak about the very experience of imprisonment, the principal instrument of our social policy that’s directed more harshly at some than at others. My invaluable experience that has strengthened my determination, astounds onlookers at the ability to overcome extraordinary obstacles, and meet each day with fresh optimism. Continuing to dream and probe for deeper greater accomplishments, ALL at the grassroots of our major problem of mass incarceration in the United States.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I owned my first restaurant at 23 years old in Des Moines, Iowa the city I grew up in. Frank’s BBQ Restaurant (“Frank” derived from middle name McFrancis is my childhood family name) in an area called the Court Avenue District. The area was a popular attraction because the streetscape was restored to brick streets, brick sidewalks, early era street lamp, horse & buggy etc… I served a family recipe of BBQ and my establishment was quite popular because of the flavor, quality, location and atmosphere. There was a prominent attorney in the area by the name of David W. Belin who frequented for lunch since his offices were also downtown. He approached me to suggest that I try to “flash freeze” my BBQ ribs to see how they preserved. He further mentioned that he had a contact that he could liaison possibly getting my BBQ served on airplanes with a local airport food and beverage catering company. Additionally, he went on to suggest that I consider opening another restaurant in West Des Moines, Iowa. Mind you, in the early eighties there wasn’t even a hint of the economic development that now currently exist in that area. He suggested as well, opening a location in Omaha, Nebraska which is relatively in close proximity to Des Moines.
This area was architecturally similar to where I was already located. Again, keeping in mind in the early eighties, I was a young African American Entrepreneur that had broken a glass ceiling that I really wasn’t naïve to. Realizing owning a restaurant in downtown Des Moines, Iowa was precedent. But I wasn’t raised to believe, nor did I then or now entertain that the color of my skin was a hindrance. I knew I served a quality product and there was a demand for it.
But, needless to say, I ran from the “olive branch” extended by Mr. Belin, investing/partnering with me to finance my potential expansion. I wasn’t seeking an investor for what I was already operating and I was led to believe by those I consulted (who’s thinking was biasly wired-suspicion) that his investment offer was trying to take away my business.
Entrepreneur lesson 101, Venture Capital lesson 101, it’s better to own a little something rather than owning nothing at all. Equity stake investment is as common as bread and butter and I ran from the opportunity of seasoned mentorship and venture capital to expand possibly increasing my revenues ten-fold. Lesson learned, unfortunately as a young up & coming entrepreneur I wouldn’t have recognized an ‘angel’ if they were daunting wings! (laughing)
Can you describe how your company is making a significant social impact?
Crumbs Ventures aspires as a mission to bring advancement opportunities, economic development representing ethical principles and honest dealings, fair labor practices while providing quality products for all of our associate partners, employees and customers.
Wow! Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted this cause?
(Laughing) ME! There are times I go in my office, close my door, lean back in my chair and just sit in ahhh because I’m amazed by the spirit of “Favor”, “The Hedge of Protection” on my life, that has blessed me beyond what I feel I’m worthy of. The front row seat that I’ve had on this roller-coaster of life is a breathtaking view. SportieCups’ product line gaining traction is so surreal.
Often times, what we need more than advice is someone that can objectively listen, encourage and help someone at a disadvantage to refine their game plan and place them on level playing field. I often think in sports analogies since our business and customers are sports related/minded loyalists. Once a person’s vision has clarity the old adage, “Send me in Coach’, is all they need.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Community: The world around us is changing and we have a choice: to sit back and complain about it or decide to initiate the change. Taking charge of the future means articulating a vision of how we believe it ought to be. Start with your own hunches and intuitions, or let your indignation guide you. How can your community work better?
Take a hard look at your assumptions, prejudices, and blind spots. Train an internal microscope on your impulses and ask, “Do these represent impartial values?” Perhaps they are vestiges of childhood misunderstandings, outmoded cultural views, or simply old ideas you’ve never bothered to question. Discard the ideas that serve neither you nor your community. This will give you a new sense of purpose, direction and hint of compassion for the “least of us”.
Society: Geography defines our society and community of place. When we draw the circle wide enough, it includes people with whom we have little in common — except physical proximity. Our society’s future depends on finding ways to collaborate with people who have divergent viewpoints. Healthy societies transform differences among people into gifts.
Politicians: Living & assimilating in business in the greater Washington D.C. area I have a bird’s eye view. They challenge and engage opponents. We shoot down enemies. There will always be people someone wants to ostracize: ex-felons, public assistance recipients, developers, environmentalists, new immigrants, youth-at-risk, etc…instead, embrace grassroot empathy. It’s easy to believe that you have all the answers. But remember, no matter how acute our vision, we only see part of the picture. Instead of sitting high and looking low, then pulling out a manual for an answer…take the time to study what it’s like to stand in someone else’s shoes, it will bring a valuable new perspective. Invite the “least of us”, that you are supposedly representing to your meetings. This simple practice builds bridges for a more productive and positive future. Empathy goes far beyond the people we choose to impact. It’s contagious in a good way.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Carefully choose who you take advice from. Here’s what I’ve found to be useful: Take advice only from those who have made the same journey (or a similar one) that you want to undertake.
2. Buy experiences, not things. Experiences are what change us. They help us open up doors to new people, cultures, perspectives, and potentially a whole new world. So, invest your money well.
3. Connections, are the key to success. They’ve helped me to open up doors, knowing the right people and connecting on a deeper level is much more powerful than anything written on a piece of paper.
4. Know your “why.” Question: Why do I want that?
Reply: Because I want to feel secure (mentally, physically & financially) and free, to explore the world, to invent/create, manufacture & distribute things, to feel respected, build businesses-create economic development to connect with myself and to help others in positive life changing ways.
5. Eventually, everything will make sense. I have stumbled and fallen hard in this life. Sometimes the road has been rocky. Sometimes, I’ve questioned if everything will make sense in the end. As the late Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life lesson quote, “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”.
In the Holy Bible there’s a scripture in the book of Jeremiah, he tells our Creator, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name, “his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
From an unforgiving background, I sought to create a quality product that can give second chances to those who have not been given the amenities of life. I was overcome with a spirit of invention. Again, I’m a born serial entrepreneur and it was burning in my heart like a fire when it was intended to be left dormant. Even though my circumstance wasn’t conducive to business I was weary of holding it in… I began to sketch SportieCups and other products. I wrote the bylaws for Crumbs for Kidz Foundation, a foundation originated to help children of incarcerated parents or living in impoverished zip codes with academic curriculum particularly math & science.
Our government says that 65% of these children with a parent or both parents incarcerated will go to prison too. While under guise of public safety continue to build and fund prisons.
I could not hold in what I was born with, entrepreneurship. I knew that I wasn’t going to expire from this life without having the chance to “lifting up the least of us”. Winning against the odds, I continue with fiery desire still pressing in aligning our company and products with a competitive market’s edge. Can’t stop won’t stop.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂
Actually, I have three I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with:
Oprah Winfrey, American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer, and philanthropist. What else can I say, “It’s Oprah”. She’s been operating in an “Angel Degree” throughout her career. Our commonalities are we were both born January 29th, and we both attended Tennessee State University.
Business Magnate/RICHARD BRANSON — Virgin Group. Like myself, he expressed his desire to become an entrepreneur at a young age. He has accomplished my goal making an imprint in the business community. I’ve taken to heart his declaration that it is our responsibility to share our life/entrepreneurial story to inspire others. He seems down to earth and I appreciate his approach about business.
Jay Z (Shawn Corey Carter), American rapper, songwriter, record producer, and entrepreneur. He is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, and one of the most acclaimed rappers of all-time. I’ve watched Jay-Z establish himself as a successful entrepreneur with a business empire that spans a variety of industries from clothing lines, beverages, real estate, sport teams, and record labels. When he stated that, “my brands are an extension of me,” it resonates with how I feel about my own company and products. We both have an emotional attachment to our brands.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook and Instagram @sportiecups or simply log on to our website at http://www.crumbsventures.com/.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
The feeling is mutual, it’s been my pleasure. Thank you.
Originally published at medium.com